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Decorative Tiny Fabric Table Mat – This article and other references require verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to trusted sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. Find source: “Tablecloth” – Newspaper Book Researcher JSTOR (December 2009) (learn how to remove this template message)
A tablecloth is a piece of cloth used to cover a table. Some are primarily decorative covers, which may also help protect the table from scratches and stains. Other tablecloths are designed to be spread on the dining table prior to setting the dishes and food. Some tablecloths are designed to be part of an overall table setting, to be worn with matching napkins, placemats or other decorative pieces. Special types of tablecloths include “tablecloths” that cover the table with only two notches and “tablecloths” that provide a cushioning layer under a normal tablecloth.
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The most common tablecloth shapes are round, square, oval, oval or ellipse, the same as the most common table shapes. Tablecloths usually have a bump called a “drop”. The table drop is actually 6 to 15 inches per side, with a shorter drop for casual dining and a longer drop for formal occasions. Sometimes ground cloth is used. Custom tablecloths are also available, and some choose to make their own.
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Today, tablecloths are usually made of cotton, polycotton, or PVC-coated materials that can be wiped clean, but they can be made of almost anything, including delicate fabrics like damask silk. Ease of cleaning is an important consideration for tablecloths as they get soiled easily.
The earliest mention of tablecloths dates back to around 100 AD, by the ancient Spanish poet Martial.
In many European cultures, a white or predominantly white tablecloth is the standard covering for the dining table. In the late Middle Ages, covering the table with fine white linen or cheesecloth was an important part of banquet preparation in wealthy families. Over time, the custom of placing utensils on a piece of cloth became common among most but the poorest social classes.
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As eating habits changed in the 20th century, so did the variety of table setting styles. White tablecloths are still used for some formal dinners, usually in a damask weave, but other colors and patterns are also popular.
Perugia tablecloths and napkins have been produced since the Middle Ages. These fabrics are white with unique blue stripes and patterns. This style is also related to church style.
A common “trick” is to pull the stuffed tablecloth away from the table, leaving the dishes behind. This trick relies on inertia. It is called a pull tablecloth or a pull tablecloth.
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